blogbookshire me

Always Having Five Minutes

28 June 2024

As a manager, I have to adapt to my environment, so a lot of what I do can be adjusted to the context. However one thing I’ll always do for the people reporting to me is to have 5 minutes available for important topics. It’s straightforward, but I think it’s very valuable to build trust and prevent problems from getting out of hand.

Here’s how I usually frame it to my direct reports.

It’s important

  • If you are reporting to me, I will always have 5 minutes for you, and I truly mean it.
  • You should be able to rely on me when it’s important. I’m more than happy to have you disturb whatever I’m doing to reach that goal.
  • I know my calendar is full and I look very busy. I still have 5 minutes for you. I won’t be mad.
  • It also works if I’m not at the office… of course I’m counting on you to only do it if necessary.

How to do it

  • If we’re in the office, just walk up to me! If we’re remote, send me an instant message. If I’m not responding fast enough, escalate to a SMS and if you still don’t have an answer then call me.
  • Please give me a sense of scope and urgency, it helps me react accordingly and not stress unnecessarily. So avoid “do you have 5 minutes?” and prefer “Do you have 5 minutes to discuss XYZ before the end of the day? It’s urgent.”

What you’ll get

  • At the very least, we’ll be able to discuss quickly your concern and figure out a next step.
  • Sometimes it will literally be only 5 minutes in between meetings, maybe I’ll be outside on the phone… but I’ll still take the time and we’ll be able to assess what to do.

The one downside

  • Because of this, I’ll never accept “you didn’t have time to discuss for this urgent thing” as a reason for something going wrong. I will always have 5 minutes for you.

Usually people are a bit doubtful, especially in roles where I managed large teams, so I’ll repeat this rule every now and then until they use it. After years of having this in place, I can recall many examples where having this guideline helped individuals in my team.